Waianae school's plan to convert to charter is approved
A review panel approved yesterday Kamaile Elementary School's application for a charter, a change that will bring more money for a school serving many native Hawaiian and disadvantaged students in Waianae.
Administrators, faculty, staff and parents at Kamaile voted for the conversion and the nonprofit Ho'okako'o Corp. filed an application on behalf of the school in January with the state Board of Education.
About as 70 percent of the 650 students enrolled at Kamaile this fall are of native Hawaiian ancestry and almost 90 percent come from economically disadvantaged families.
"The resources that the charter will bring are very important," said Principal Glen Kila.
Under a state law enacted in 2002, the school stands to receive as much as $1,500 more per student each year because of the conversion. Kamehameha Schools will give Kamaile $1 for every $4 allocated by the state, said Lynn Fallin, executive director of Ho'okako'o, which will oversee the school's operations, set policies and provide technical support.
Kamaile became the first school to get a charter through the Charter School Review Panel, which took the power of authorizing new charters away from the Board of Education under a bill passed this spring. The move is intended to give the school board more time to focus on broader educational issues affecting all of the state's 286 public schools.
Panel members judged Kamaile's plan to convert to a charter using a scoring system that ensures schools are ready for the change, said member Ku Kahakalau, director of Kanu o ka 'Aina charter school in Waimea on the Big Island.
"We set up a rubric that kind of validated what they had written with what the law required," she said.
Kamaile joins Waimea Middle on the Big Island and Kualapuu Elementary on Molokai as Ho'okako'o conversion charters. Students from Waimea and Kualapuu achieved progress benchmarks in this spring's Hawaii State Assessment test, Fallin said.
"We have seen dramatic improvements," she said, noting parent involvement has shot up and teacher attitude has improved since the schools converted. "And we don't just want it to be one time. What we are trying to move toward is long-term sustainable success."
Hawaii currently has 28 charter schools -- 23 startups and five conversion schools, including Kamaile.